Call for Papers: Politics of Food & Drink in and of CEE

Abstracts: (200 words) to Gábor Egry & Benjamin Tallis by 30/11/2015

The politics of food and drink and understandings of food and drink as politics are underexplored in the Central and East European context. New Perspectives seeks to help address this by devoting a special issue to the contemporary and historical politics of food and drink in the region. Plural and interdisciplinary perspectives are encouraged in order to provoke new constellations of understanding in this fascinating, diverse and pervasive aspect of social and political life. A variety of historical and contemporary considerations, sketched below, prompted this call for papers, but authors are encouraged to interpret the call broadly and engage with the politics of food and drink in CEE from a variety of theoretical, conceptual and methodological perspectives.

Control over natural resources, among them food and water, was crucial for the rise and fall of civilizations and political entities since the beginnings of human societies. In the era of recurring shortages adaptation to natural conditions and expansion of arable land, just as the extension of political control to new or contested territories was still not able to break the Malthusian cycle characterizing predominantly agrarian communities which also affected the rising centres of urbanity. Despite modernity’s success in overcoming these limits, alimentation in modern societies, with a high diversity of professions and complex division of labour, is still a social issue of primary importance.

Crises in periods of modernity, such as the problems of substitution of wartime revealed the limits of sheer, dominating power in controlling material resources such as food and drink and require more nuanced understandings. Gastronomy in a broader sense, beyond consumption of basic necessities, is a matter of social status, social practices, identifications which could give a specific meaning to eating, and our understandings of power are incomplete without accounting for these influences. As culinary practices are often seen since time immemorial as expressions of culture, refinement or social position, amending them is not just a matter of taste, it also means to change the social fabric and structure and it often encounters resistance.

Multi-ethnic and entangled societies, such as those of CEE, laying at the crossroads of East, South and West, were often exposed to population movements, conquest or domination of external powers, and societies at different stages of modernity encountered each other in the same space and time. Therefore, the region is a rich field for exploring diverse aspects of culinary politics, be it competing, entangled or parallel nation buildings, social engineering through and with gastronomy, cultural transfers and biopolitics, to name only a few. Other, often overlooked, phenomena like the changing offer and role of dining cars of long distance and/or international railways throughout the twentieth century and into the present can also exemplify how a specific, and seemingly irrelevant object of culinary politics can reveal an abundance issues of social and political importance.

New Perspectives thus devotes a special issue to these problems. We invite contributions to this special issue from a broad range of disciplines form literary studies through history, sociology and political sciences to cultural studies, focusing primarily on the modern period and contemporary phenomena but open to broad interpretation of such.

The following list is far from exhaustive but possible topics include the socio-politics of:

Colonialism and post-colonialist gastronomies; Empowerment, social movements of post-materialism, post-industrialism and culinary politics; New attempts at social organization; Nations, representations of ethnicity, differentiations and redefinitions of national identities; Migrating people and migrating cuisines, entanglements, transfers, political propaganda and “branding”; Legitimation, stigmatisation, consumption and its social and political history; Exploitation, deprivation, scarcity and substitution; Food sanctions and food destruction …